Create your learning habit

This article describes one of three things you’d need to do to ensure that you complete the Project Management Concepts course. The underlying principles described here also apply to many situations where you need to study on your own.

Habits conducive to learning are amongst the most important prerequisistes for internalising your learning.

Here’s how to do start creating your learning habit:

Select a daily timeslot of 20 minutes for studying.

Make this appointment with yourself a ritual, like sitting at the same place, blocking out external distractions. Many people coincide their first early morning cup with their studying time. It works like early morning exercise. Once you have your shoes on, it is unlikely that you will get back into bed. It is the executed decision to just do it that does the trick.

Buffer time in Pomodoro study

Stick to your allotted time.

Do not shorten your study time, and do not exceed it either. Yes, you have read correctly: Do not exceed your 20 minutes of focused, concentrated study!

Here’s the reason: As humans, we have two modes of thinking relevant to our learning. The one mode is called focused thinking. In this mode we focus intently on what we study. In the other mode, diffuse thinking, we are in a state of “neural resting”. It is a more casual, almost incidental way of thinking.

Focused thinking is different from focusing on a task. You could put off your cell phone and focus for four hours on writing a report, but that doesn’t mean that your mind will be engaged in focused thinking for the full four hours.

Neuroscientists have found that one can’t toggle quickly between these two modes of thinking. You either focus, or you don’t. And for the average person, the focused thinking state typically lasts about 20 minutes. You will find that 20 minutes of focused study “puts enough petrol in the tank” for many hours of diffuse thinking.

Your daily 20-minute concentrated learning sprint provides the substrate for your diffuse thinking. At times throughout the day, you may find that you recall or think about what you learned earlier during these 20 minutes. This is great, because it shows that your mind is processing, overcoming the sticky parts that don’t make sense to you yet. Subconciously, you’re linking new concepts to established ones, making new neural connections.

Keep your rhythm, returning to your habit if you happen to miss a day.

Doing more

Sometimes you may find that 20 minutes per day is not enough to get to the depth of understanding you need to answer the surprise questions at the end of the week, or to simply to complete the task for that day. Here, you could use one of two approaches:

  1. Schedule extra time outside your usual 20-minute sprint to do further study. (Don’t do it as an extention of your regular sprint, because this can disrupt your habit and compromise your focused thinking.)
  2. Do the course over a longer period.

Whichever approach you choose, ensure that you visit the Study Group Forum regularly from Test Series 2 onwards.

Right, what else would you need to do to ensure that you successfully complete the course? Read the next article to find out.

Tania Melnyczuk

Director of Programme Design at ProjectManagement.co.za and the Collaboration Director of the Autistic Strategies Network.

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